DEAR CAROLYN: My children have serious food allergies. I have had difficulty educating and bringing my in-laws on board with our way of managing their food choices.
I recently found out from my sister-in-law that my in-laws have been saying they think I am making up my children’s allergies.
I am beside myself. My husband stated he is angry, but is unsure of what action to take. If he says something to my in-laws, it puts the relationship with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law at risk.
But my children are not safe around them, and I feel humiliated and furious at their accusations. I find myself directing anger toward my husband — not expressed to him yet — just because it’s his family.
Is it on me to just deal with this while being hypervigilant around my in-laws? That’s where I find the most peace-keeping resolution, but these feelings are eating me up inside. I feel like I need a better plan.
DEAR M.: You certainly do. Arrogance like your in-laws’ puts kids in emergency rooms, if not the ground.
Therefore, your husband’s hesitation demonstrates misguided priorities at best — at worst, betrayal of his spouse and kids — so you have grounds to be full-on angry at him in his own right.
It also goes without saying that protecting your brother-in-law and sister-in-law as informants is just not a valid priority at this point.
So here’s where all of this puts you, this risk to your children and the kowtowing to his family and the strain on your marriage and the roiling undercurrent of his parents’ resentment of you:
Your husband acts on this, now, or you do.
First conversation is with the sibling and spouse to say how grateful he is for the truth about what his parents are saying — and how sorry he is that he’s going to have to risk betraying their confidences to talk to his parents about this. He can assure them he’ll try to shield them, but obviously can’t stop the parents from deducing the source. He can vow to stand up for the whistleblowers for doing the absolute and only right thing in reporting the truth to you — which it was, without question.
Second conversation is with his parents, to say their attitude about the kids’ allergies made its way back to him; to say he is horrified by it; to say this kind of defiance kills children; to say will he not allow his kids to spend time with anyone who fails to respect their dietary requirements; to say that if they don’t respect you, they don’t respect him, and he will not stand for it. Not one minced word.
I don’t know where this I-think-they’re-making-it-up cancer started, but it’s smug and dangerous and by no means unique to your in-laws. I’ll give it the kindest spin I’ve got and say people aren’t great at processing change, and food allergies and intolerances are on the rise (fact sheet here: https://www.foodallergy.org/life-with-food-allergies/food-allergy-101/facts-and-statistics). So, people are being asked not to serve X and Y when serving X and Y was never a problem when they were growing up. So, the less adaptable among us are pushing back.
But it is about 18 kinds of not OK to do this.
And it doesn’t take a whole lot of mental lifting to figure out that a successful “gotcha” on one hypothetical fake allergy is not worth the terrible risk of anaphylaxis for being wrong. Seriously — who freaking cares that much about being right. (Besides the entirety of 2019.)
Anyway. Your husband draws this line with his folks, or you do. Soon.
And if he refuses, then it’s time to address the crack this puts in your marriage before it’s too big to fix — and/or, before it seriously harms your kids.
DEAR CAROLYN: I received a text invitation yesterday, from the wife of my uncle. We are not very close and don’t spend any time together ever. The text said: “Although you are not part of my family or circle of friends I still would like to invite you to my birthday party next year. It would be nice to have you there if you can muster the effort.”
I thought I was sort of family but OK.
How do I decline? Since there is no date it’s hard to say I have plans. I don’t intend to go.
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DEAR PUZZLED: You can ignore it unless and until she follows up; it’s a text, after all, and a chilly one at that.
Or you can respond as if it weren’t one of the more bizarre things you’ve ever read. “Thanks! When you have the details, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.”
It’s just weird enough that maybe she meant it kindly? Like, she felt awkward sending an out-of-the-blue text and felt it needed explaining. Either way, you can’t lose if you prop the door open and wait.
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